Part Two of Four
Well, here we are again, little Buffone: your hand and my story. Where were we? Oh yes, the Head of Baphomet intended that I sacrifice triplet virgins to Satan and I intended to refuse even though it meant my own death. Very noble of me, but fortunately the situation never became actual.
A troop of Dark Templars had been sent to Verona to kidnap the girls but the mission had gone bad. Their story was that an Avatar, a goddess, had attacked and overpowered them so thoroughly that they had to flee from Verona empty-handed. Lucky for me, I was off the sacrificial hook, for the moment at least.
This was the first time The Head had not foreseen all the proper moves for a mission, but also the first time an Avatar had interfered. Verily, Baphomet had mentioned Avatars as some potential threat, but we had assumed them to be mythic beings from some earlier time of miracles, referred to as "angels" in the Bible or "gods" by the Greeks. We were surprised to learn that Avatars existed in our time and so was The Head, it seemed.
However, up to then every mission had succeeded, and after that as well. The Templars rarely went on frivolous raids just to pillage and plunder, there was always some strategic or political purpose. And there were also some supplies that could not be purchased.
The men were always after new women. The villa's harem of slave girls had to be augmented regularly because many of them became with child and were sent away to raise the children collectively in a private castle near Rimini. The children were to be indoctrinated and trained to be future Agents of the Dark Templars. Malatesta had his own private harem and had already sired three sons.
I tried to avoid slave missions as well as sacrifices and specialized in political intrigue, which offered a chance to travel. I preferred being away from the villa and The Head as much as possible.
I was on one such special mission in Jerusalem with three other agents, the assassination of a Caliph who was trying to promote peace betweens Muslims and Christians and Jews. Peace did not fit into The Head's design for the Holy Land, which was to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque to clear the ground for Another Temple, setting the world up for Apocalypse. The assassination succeeded-I had no compunctions, the man was corrupt and a child molester--but we were spotted and had to disappear into the streets of Jerusalem. I became separated from the others.
Finally I was cornered in an alley surrounded by six angry Arabs with scimitars drawn. All I had was a knife, not even my usual chain-mail for protection. We all squared off to do battle, I expected to die soon.
When a pretty young girl entered the alley and stepped inside the ring of swordsmen attacking me, standing rather in the way, unafraid of the violence that was about to happen.
"Stop this," she said with such astonishing authority that we all obeyed, frozen in place, weapons dipped.
We were also stunned at the very sight of her: so blonde and petite, dressed in absurdly gaudy bright colored robes and ribbons, with no veil over her face as was the custom; openly and angelically beautiful. Not the kind of girl you expect to meet in a Jerusalem alley. So instead of battling for our lives we eagerly waited for whatever she had to say.
"Leave this man to me," she said in Arabic, indicating me.
Five Arabs nodded in acquiescence, willing to do whatever she wanted, but the sixth was a burly man not to be denied his murder. He sneered at her brazen clothing with moral indignation, "You are one of those harlots, do not interfere with men of Allah!" He moved to brush her brusquely aside with a swinging elbow as he resumed attacking me, weapon held high.
But she could not be brushed aside, standing solidly in his way she caught his elbow, deftly disarmed the man and sent him sprawling far backwards into the alleyway. It was a demonstration of the authority with which she spoke: martial technique and overwhelming physical strength.
"You shall leave now," speaking in Arabic again, "I shall deal with this man."
The other Arabs scowled, but then bowed to the goddess and obeyed. When she and I were alone she spoke in fluent Occitan: "Now come with me, Sir Guy, I have something for you."
Of course I followed her, I could no more resist her than those Arabs had. Nor did I wish to. We went to a house off Via Dolorosa. Like her, the building was painted in bright colors. Inside were other girls, also angelically beautiful, also dressed in untraditional ways. I realized that we were in a brothel.
We went upstairs, turned into a long corridor and were suddenly alone so I dared whisper the question: "Are you an agent of The Head?"
Her reply was stern, "No, Baphomet is the Enemy. I am Irisia. It was I who rescued the three virgins of Verona, and thereby your life. As well as now again, it seems."
"Yes, I thank you for that. But then, you must be an...Avatar?"
"Of course. We're all Avatars here, this is the House of Angels."
I was puzzled: a whorehouse of angels? But I had so many other questions.
"How do you know who I am?"
"We have met before, in other lifetimes. In fact, we have been lovers occasionally, although you cannot remember any of that just yet. Here, let's go into this room."
Irisia opened one of many doors along that long corridor, all of which looked alike; there was no way to tell one from another. Inside, the room was bright with sunlight and green with plants and flowers, very cheery décor, a desk, two chairs and a wide bed. A perfect room for a prostitute to do her best work.
But I had already understood that Irisia was a different kind of professional, an agent of some kind, versed in mysterious intrigues. She also had the physical and psychic powers of an Avatar goddess, so she could certainly be a dangerous woman, in one way or another. But I did not fear her, somehow I understood that this angel was my very own Guardian Angel.
Verily, it was difficult to be afraid of a girl who looked like that anyway: one so seductively beautiful but ostensibly far too young and innocent to know how to use her power over men. So what that she lived in a brothel? Hers was a perfect camoflage, any man would willfully be a fool for her!
I was smitten at the sight of her, whether by Love or Lust I could not define... well, now I can: both. As I had once told The Head, I was still waiting for some woman I truly desired, and here she was at last! And yet she only made me realize how disgusted I had become with myself: once a knight in shining armor, a valiant soldier, but no longer a hero. I did not deserve to be in the same room with a girl like her, prostitute or not.
"I am to give you this," she said, opening a desk drawer and taking out a thin silvery envelope. "Sit down and read it."
I did as commanded. It was a single square of parchment decorated with a Latin text written on one side and a strange drawing on the other. I was surprised to see that it was a letter addressed to me...literally.
Dear me: This letter is from your own self; although you may not yet understand that, please read it. Rather than explain what you could never believe, I ask that you see for yourself by following these instructions: you must DRAW a copy of the Soul-Mandala on the other side of this document. Then you will understand! But when you sleep you shall also forget all that you have understood. You must therefore Re-draw it every morning to understand once again,. Our beautiful Irisia has promised to give this to you whenever and wherever you show up; it is she who sees the future, not I. Arnoldo, 21 September 1205
Irisia came with a small pitcher of wine, some bread and cheese, a sheaf of paper, ink and a quill. "Draw it now. I'll be back later and we can make love," she said and left me alone.
I had been so stunned by her offer that I almost grabbed her hand to take her up on it at once, then realized that she would never want me until I understood whatever it was, so I steadied myself and set about drawing instead.
It wasn't easy, I hadn't drawn for years, although I'd had talent for it as a boy. So I made mistakes, my first copy of the mandala was terrible, ink smeared all over and looked nothing like the original. I tried again and again, for hours. At one point Irisia looked in on me and I almost let desire for her interrupt the process, but by then I was getting a feel for it and the lines were beginning to flow, so I turned away from her and back to work. Eventually I went into a trance, the drawing coagulated and was finished.
At that moment I awakened to my expanded self, suddenly remembering Whom I Truly Am and every mortal incarnation my soul had ever experienced upon Earth since the beginning of time. I had been hundreds of men-and sometimes women-for life after life on an endless string, each one different: good or bad, rich or poor, soldier or priest, had even once been a Master Sorcerer. These were not memories subject to the limitations of a fleshy brain: age and disease, forgetful and inaccurate, edited by human pride or shame; but the Soul Memory Itself, a perfect account of my own Karma.
I discovered that I was on a secret mission to defeat Baphomet. So secret I hadn't known it myself until exactly then.
I could now see the cohesive purpose throughout many of my lives along the string: as Adversary to Baphomet. The Head was powerful and usually won the game, killing the mortal whom I had been at that time, but I always reincarnated and sometimes even WON-as had young Sassim Azharrz of Babylon, for example, when I dumped Baphomet into the tar pit where it lay buried for 2500 years.
Theoretically I could win that kind of victory again; I had generations of knowledge and thousands of skills at my disposal; I was entrenched within the enemy's lair. This moment had been planned a century before, by my also-then expanded-self and Irisia, my semi-immortal lover.
I clearly remembered writing the letter to myself, 105 years before, and handing it to her. That incarnation was the first and only other time-out of all eternity-in which I had been aware of my expanded self while alive on Earthlevel.
a century before
Born in Spain, year 1162, a boy named-- never mind, my true name was given me when I joined a monastic order and became a novice monk: Brother Arnoldo.
I became quite proficient at calligraphy and had a talent for transcribing ancient scrolls and other documents onto parchment pages, illustrating and producing rather elegant leather-bound manuscripts for our local library, where we had an outstanding collection of codices. I was quite satisfied with my life in that monastery serving God with my art, but my talent became so renown that I was summoned to work in the Holy Land.
I traveled to the port of Acre with a group of pilgrims, sailing from Brindisi, then escorted along the dangerous land routes by a troop of Knights Templar. I admired them, those brave young men striving to serve our Lord Jesus Christ in their own way by protecting defenseless Christians against barbarian Saracens. Their discipline was similar to our own--the major difference being that they did not turn the other cheek when attacked, but killed their foes with gusto and panache. They also looked quite dashing in their chain mail and helmets, distinctive as Knights of the Temple Mount in their snow-white mantels quartered by the bold red crosses.
That was in the year 1191, the Crusaders had just reclaimed Acre from the armies of Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt, who had conquered Jerusalem four years earlier. So there was a Christian stronghold in the Holy Land once again and several religious orders established their headquarters there. I was assigned to an abbey that supported the Templars.
I continued to transcribe manuscripts, doing so for the next six years, perfecting my art. The Bishop of Acre himself praised both the accuracy and the artistry of my renditions of ancient clay tablets and papyrus scrolls onto parchment. I was no master at translation, but could authentically capture the image, the look, of an original clay tablet. I could thus transfer a dry ton of old tablets into the far more portable medium of a single book. My finished pages were considered almost "miraculous". I had to remind myself that Pride was a Sin.
The Bishop had me transferred me to a very special archive in the Templar's own Headquarters, in the cellar beneath the Grand Master's palace. He had personally explained that I would be sequestered there while working on certain sensitive documents which the Templars and Holy Church wished to keep secret. He would not say what the documents were about, so I assumed they were heretical, forbidden concepts that should nevertheless be preserved for history. I humbly agreed to take on the work-- what else could a simple monk do?
I could easily understand the need to copy these documents as soon as possible: some of the older scrolls were so dilapidated and fragile that they were falling apart and I had difficulty discerning what was left of the image. Many stone tablets were broken and scratched, I had to assemble the pieces to envision the page. There were small icons so worn down that the original form was uncertain, many documents were unreadable, I put those aside until I had developed more feel for the symbols I should copy.
But it was only image I was after, most of the languages and symbols were unknown to me, admittedly, I could not understand them at all. Of course, I had to wonder what they were about and why they had to be so secret if no one could read them anyway. Historical embarrassments? Obscenities? Forbidden magical spells? Alchemy? I could only guess. But if they were heretical it didn't matter to me, I could hardly be corrupted by them and was glad to be of some special value to the Holy Church.
There was a rigidly methodical control over the documents I produced; the Bishop came down twice a week to collect any finished pages and inspect the ones I was working on. The original artifacts, scrolls, icons, were taken away to some other secret archive, and new projects were delivered to me. Any sketch sheets or practice pages were also collected so that once transcribed I had no remaining examples of those "forbidden documents". The Bishop often searched the workshop for any "stray" material.
I am afraid that I committed a little sin. I secretly kept notes and sketches to refer back to, so that I could recognize how certain symbols were grouped, the work was too difficult without developing a system. I hid them under stacks of parchment in plain sight, so that they were never found when the Bishop came snooping.
If I seem uncharitable concerning that Bishop, it's probably because he was a wicked bastard. As a Holy Man of God he turned out to be a farce: greedy, arrogant, immoral. It was he who enforced the terms of my assignment, to work in that cellar, always alone, to eat there, sleep there. The only daylight I ever saw was the bright square of illumination on my workbench. I was never allowed to leave, nor have any contact with another person, even being expressly forbidden to speak with the guards stationed outside my door. I was officially a monk but actually a prisoner-the Bishop's own captive and slave. However, it took me a while to realize that, so engrossed was I with my work.
I was aware that since the beginning of that century there had been myths and rumors concerning an idol of some pagan deity called by that name, once worshipped in Sodom and Gomorrah. Some Knights Templar had even been accused of worshipping Baphomet in occult ceremonies, among other accusations of heresy, but as far as I knew that was only popular slander. The Templars were envied for the wealth and power they had accumulated during the Crusades and their resentful debtors yearned to disgrace them.
However, working in that secret archive, I was privy to the knowledge that another popular myth was true: the Templars had indeed found the fabled Lost Treasure of Solomon deep beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the year 1129. I had also heard that references to Baphomet were among some of the most ancient documents found in that treasure vault. Those documents were supposed to have remained secret, but word got out, as did the famous illustration of the Satanic Goat. Perhaps false copies abounded, perhaps there really had been foolish ceremonies, who knows? But I was informed that the actual Head itself had never been found, although the rumor had arrived in advance.
That tablet tingling under my hand was my own first personal contact with any documentation about Baphomet, and I noticed a very odd thing: I understood the message. Which was impossible: I had often worked with Sumerian cuneiform, recognized many symbols, but had never found any definitions to refer to. Suddenly I could read that long-lost Mesopotamian language? I soon ascertained that I could not; every other tablet was a mystery to me except for THAT one.
It was not the precise text I understood but the general meaning of the message itself, revealing that the idol called Baphomet was an artifact of a much earlier civilization, resembling a goat's head of crystalline stone, but magically capable of articulate speech in any language. The crux of the message was a warning: Baphomet was an Evil Device With a Silver Tongue, created by The Devil Himself to entice mankind into Destroying the Entire World.
I found that I believed it, although I had no evidence to verify any of it, nor even if my "translation" was accurate. I painted a copy of it, but did not offer a translation (which might be inaccurate, although I knew better). After all, whatever power that ancient idol may have once had, it was lost forever and therefore no actual threat to anyone any more.
Other references to Baphomet turned up frequently among the oldest Sumerian clay tablets, as well as one especially unique scroll made of an unknown metal (like stainless steel), which I "felt" was from the mythic city of Atlantis. I could always sense the meaning of any document concerning Baphomet. Some few praised the idol as a deity, but most bewailed the harm and evil it had caused.
And then one of them burned my hand when I touched it. Really burned, not just a "feeling": smoke, blisters, pain. I was afraid to touch it again but wrapped it in canvas and got it onto my workbench to study it.
That tablet described how and where the Baphomet artifact had been cast into a tar pit just outside the walls of Babylon. There were instructions, a spell to incant, human sacrifice required. Sound familiar? Yes, this was the very same clay tablet Ettorino Malatesta would use to bring Baphomet back to Earth, but that was a century away and I had no way of knowing the future.
All I did know was that after all of those warnings, this was apparently the key to unleashing Hell on Earth. No wonder it burned me, as far as Baphomet was concerned it was HOT!
I came to realize that I was sensitive to anything pertaining to Baphomet, but without knowing why. I began to assume that God had placed me there for a reason: to protect the world from that particular idol. And now the most dangerous document of all had arrived: where to find it.
I was supposed to copy the tablet, after which they would take it away to who knows where. I realized that I could simply smash it to pieces instead, and when they came to retrieve it just say, "Oops, sorry!" But first I considered painting a false version of the map to mislead all idol-seekers far astray. Although to do so I would have to write a coherent text in a script I could not even read, but assumed that I could feel my way to it.
So I started to paint my very first fake document. But halfway into it I was interrupted.
I was shocked. Neglecting the formally obsequious "Your Holiness," I asked the Bishop, "Is this the kind of thing I have been transcribing all this time? Why would the Holy Church require a copy of THIS book?"
"God works in mysterious ways, Brother Arnoldo," he told me with a stormy frown, "so just do it!" "I may have to refuse," I said, "I serve My Lord Jesus Christ, not some demon called... Magog!" The Bishop went pale. "Don't!" he shouted, looking around as if in superstitious terror, "...don't say that name! It may...may HEAR you."
"Gog and Magog are mentioned in the holy Bible," I reminded him, "are you really afraid that I might SUMMON a demon with a word?"
He was frantically trying to shush me, waving his hands, whispering: "In the presence of this book.. YES!"
He left hurriedly, with a stern command for me to get the job done. I looked at the materials I was to work on with a vast distaste, not really desiring to touch them. I assumed it to be the same kind of material I had worked on all along, crediting the Bishop's reaction to simplistic superstition, which made me feel satisfyingly superior to him.
And really, I understood that this book was from a time and culture so primitive that superstition was their religion. From a time long before our sweet Jesus came and blessed us with the Truth. I had nothing to fear from old children's horror stories; they had no power over a Christian. So I did it: loud and clear, my hand upon the codex, I shouted, "Magog."
Nothing seemed to happen... although my focus did blur for a moment and I closed my eyes, weary of my situation. When I opened them to face the job before me the Hellbook was gone. I was still sitting at my workbench, but there were other changes to indicate that a very long time had passed.
I was confused, of course, my beard and hair had grown long and bushy, I was weak with malnutrition. I suddenly dreaded having become OLD, but there was no mirror in my cell since I was a humble monk eschewing all vanity, so I could not see myself. I stumbled to the door of my cell and pounded on it, rather feebly with atrophied muscles, calling out, "Help!" for hours.
One of the guards finally looked in at me. I did not recognize him but could see that he was an officer. He was also quite nervous and extremely respectful.
"Yes, Sire, how can we serve you?" I had to wonder about the "Sire", me being only a humble monk--and their prisoner.
"What has..." not knowing where to start, "...happened to me?"
He looked confused, "I don't know what you mean, Sire, we've obeyed all your instructions!"
"I need to see the Bishop," I said, also confused by what he said.
He looked even more confused. "We have no Bishop here."
"The Bishop of Acre!"
Now he looked quite afraid. "Uh..that Bishop is..uh..dead,Sire. You of all people must know that."
"What? No, I didn't know. When?"
"About two years ago, Sire."
"Two years! How long have I been locked in here?"
"Five years, Sire."
It seems that the Grand Master of the KnightsTemplar had known nothing about the Hellbook, it was the Bishop's personal project, intending to bestow himself with enough magical power to re-conquer Jerusalem. But he became so greedy for power and impatient that he attempted to abuse me into working faster. They told me that I had cursed the Bishop and he died horribly. Inquisitors were called in to exorcise me but I made them blind them with sorcery and no one dared come after me again. For five years everyone had lived in fear of my demoniacal power, I could have escaped, but instead worked like a madman to produce the book. When it was finished I had it delivered to the Doge of Venice with instructions to use it unwisely.
Now the Hellbook was gone and so was the Demon within me. I pleaded to released from that cell, but the Grand Master would not allow it, I was considered insane and dangerous. There had been talk of burning me at the stake but they did not want me killed as long as I kept on transcribing their special secret documents, my skill was too unique. I was to remain in that cell until I died. They had obviously realized that I no longer had any magical power over them.
I was in despair, lost, defeated. I had no memory of what was in the Hellbook, but assumed it to be full of evil magical spells, now in the hands of the perhaps equally evil Doge of Venice. Nor had I any idea of what he would use it for, but later learned that my worst imaginings were inadequate. However, no one was telling me what was happening in the world outside, the only the news I ever got was a thousand years old, from ancient scrolls and tablets.
"I have a Gift for you, little monk who has recreated my glorious Hellbook. I am Pleased, but Gratitude is Not what Motivates me. It is because I have discovered that You Have Always Been a Special Adversary to Baphomet, who is My Own Rival, and I Desire that you Prevail over him. Behold therefore your SOUL MANDALA: Re-Draw it and Realize Who You Are."
On the back page was a drawing of concentric circles and other geometric shapes with ten unfamiliar characters I could simply not understand. A letter from a demon could only be an evil trick. Draw it and what happens, I become possessed again?
But of course, eventually I did draw it and experienced my Soul Memory just as Guy would again a century later. However, this was the very first time and quite a shock for my poor humble Brother Arnoldo persona: he/I was a devout Christian-a monk!--believing in salvation only through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Final Resurrection of the saved, Angels, Heaven, Hell. I had believed in One Supreme God, but learned instead EVERYONE is a God and that many of the ancient deities walk among us even now, as Avatars.
I discovered that I had personally known several Avatars throughout my span of lives: Methuselah, Samson, Gilgamesh-- and especially my friend and rabbi Yeshua bin Yosef, the man the Holy Roman Church misquoted and fictionalized as Jesus the Christ. I had even been lovers with an Avatar goddess during several lives: Irisia of the Angelic Race.
I certainly had never believed in Reincarnation or Karma, and yet it suddenly all made sense-- how everything worked--not as a matter of Faith but of Experience. There were memories of so many lifetimes to sift through that I had to stop, they would have used up all the years of my current life as Brother Arnoldo.
But as for being a monk, my religion changed instantly, replaced by an understanding of the Truth. I had a mission of my own to fulfill, and the Holy Church was not holy enough to waste my time upon any more.
Talking to the guards I found that the year was 1204 and was horrified to learn what the Doge of Venice had recently done with the Hellbook. Far worse than anything I had imagined, he had coerced an army of Christian Crusaders to sack the Christian city of Constantinople because of his own commercial interests, out to destroy any competition to Venice's shipping industry. His army of invaders-mostly French-had ravaged and killed and destroyed as if they were possessed by demons. Which they had been, courtesy of the Hellbook.
I decided to go to Constantinople, believing the Hellbook would be there. Armed with the knowledge of all my lives and talents I knew how to do anything, so I should prevail. However, there was one minor disadvantage: every time I slept I forgot everything about my other lives and was simply Brother Arnoldo once again, who knew nothing. I wasted a week rediscovering that fact a few times before I began writing notes to myself: "Draw this Mandala!" Once that became a routine I could consistently apply myself to the job at hand.
I warmed up ancient magical abilities I used to have once long ago. But magic, like any other manipulation of reality, cannot come from nothing. Arcane talent and a clever spell are not enough: you need a source of power. Fortunately I was in a workshop full of occult secret stuff. Some of those clay tablets had traces of old magic, but I already knew which artifact was the most potent: the tablet that had burned me.
I had never finished painting nor destroying it, having been interrupted by the demon Magog and no one had dared to come in to clean up my cell, so it was still there five years later. The secret it contained was dangerous, but so was the potential magical charge. It only weighed about three kilos so I made a canvas shoulder-bag to carry it with me. Then I was ready.
Here ends Part Two, but Part Three awaits.
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